by Pilar Portela, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Florida
Business Wire’s West Coast Media Relations Specialists, Eric Thomas and Pilar Portela, were in attendance at this year’s 28th Annual National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) Multimedia Convention and Career Expo in Denver, June 23-26. More than 700 journalism professionals, a majority Latino, gathered across the Rockies to meet and hear from their peers.
This year’s title was “NAHJ En Denver: El Grito Across the Rockies.” For those of you that are unaware, the Spanish-language word “grito” means “shout” in English.
According to the association, it’s an apt title because there are distinct messages – gritos – it wanted to reverberate in all directions from the conference in Denver. The first message NAHJ wanted to make clear was that although 2008 and 2009 exacted a toll on groups such as NAHJ, their organization is still strong. Secondly, NAHJ remains committed to providing members with the training they need to thrive in spite of these tough economic times. NAHJ has long considered itself the voice for Latino journalists and for the kind of fair, accurate, balanced, nuanced and informed coverage that the industry needs. At this moment, as an organization, NAHJ believes this role continues to be relevant and they will not falter in their stance as that voice citing events in Arizona that reaffirm this point.
The convention programming included media training sessions on topics such as Mining Your Beat, Multimedia Photojournalism and Web Publishing. There were also workshops on Convention Do’s and Don’ts, Twitter 101 and Marketing Yourself in a Multimedia World, just to name a few. As the voices behind Business Wire’s Twitter account @BWLatinoWire, Eric and Pilar tweeted some of their convention experiences.
One of the most anticipated events of the convention was The Newsmaker Luncheon on Friday afternoon. This panel of distinguished immigration experts grappled with how public opinion shapes the immigration debate. Panelists approached the issue of immigration from their respective fields of study, giving each one a slightly different viewpoint. Nelson Castillo, an immigration attorney, said the political will to accomplish comprehensive immigration reform within one year is not there. Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, likened the immigration debate to the title of a book about abortion, a “Clash of Absolutes.” Camarota said talking about immigration is difficult because it is an issue that strikes at people’s core beliefs. Paul Voakes, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, called immigration a third-rail issue. Voakes, who studies how media cover immigration, said part of the problem, is that people don’t like talking about immigration. He said that in the mainstream media, immigration receives relatively little coverage until close to election time. However, in talk-show media, hosts blend news with opinion, distorting the issue, Voakes said.
Unfortunately, NAHJ’s message was overshadowed by rumors of the organization’s financial woes and dwindling membership. The 1,300 member organization dependent on monies made from the convention has seen a rapid decline in registrations for the annual event. In 2006, 1800 people came together in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. This year the number teetered just over 700. Moving forward NAHJ officials said the organization’s future includes a commitment to training and continuing annual conventions but not depending on them as “cash cows.”
Next year’s 29th Annual NAHJ convention will be held in Orlando, FL. For more information on NAHJ visit the association’s website at www.nahj.org.